Wiki and HTML

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wms: Two questions. The specific question: Is there any equivalent of the <tt></tt> tag? In some of my pages I want monospace to indicate that it is "computer text", without using the leading space to make the whole paragraph preformatted.

The general question: Why do wikis make up their own markup rules? Why not just use a subset of HTML, maybe with XML-style extension tags for things specific to a single wiki (like for example the go diagrams)? It seems the markup is no better than HTML in any way, but it's just different, so that means that I have to keep looking it up when I want to do something new. If it were an HTML subset, then it'd be easy, I know all the HTML tags pretty well by now. Anyway, I'm not saying that we should redo all Sensei's pages in HTML, it's too late, just wondering what was the justification for this markup system in the first place. (I imagine that Sensei has this markup because it was based on an older wiki that used it, but does anybody know who came up with this silly thing in the first place?)

Even worse is that all the PHPbb systems have a markup too, but that's different from both HTML and wikis. Aaaarrrrggghhh. XML- or HTML-style tags are perfectly fine for text markup, why must everybody invent their own one? Do they like forcing people to learn three or more ways to do exactly the same thing? :-(

The general philosophy behind wiki markup is that the marked-up text "looks like" the displayed text, making for easier editing.

wms: OK, I can kind of see that, having the blank line mean <p> does make it easier. Although, for anybody who also does HTML editing, I have to say that it'd be nice if there were at least an option to be able to just put in my own HTML tags. I always know what <em>this</em> will look like but this is something I often have to look up!

Dave Various wikis allow html tags. However, it raises two issues. One, it increases the threat from (knowledgable) vandals. I seem to remember Arno writing about this somewhere in here in the early days. I don't think he wants to take on the security issues. Why don't we test this Bill? You make KGS editable by everyone and let us know how it goes :-) Second, and more importantly from the point of view of the wiki philosophy, it makes it much more difficult for "everyone" to edit every page. If html were the markup, what would Text Formatting Rules point to?

  • I don't understand. How would HTML markup make things easier for vandals than the current markup? As for proposing to make KGS editable by everyone, do you think that the experiment would be less troublesome if I used sensei's-style tags when I made KGS editable by everyone? Again, I just don't understand what points you are making. (PS - TextFormatting? rules could point to a page that simple says, "Bold is <b>bold text</b>, italic is <i>italic text</i>, paragraph breaks are <p>...", would be pretty simple don't you think?)

dnerra The reason against html markup in the first place is that it is more difficult to learn, thus creating a small but noticeable barrier to start contributing to SL for many. (Similar to why there is no password required.) I think the major point against allowing html tags for those users that know it anyway is that other users then won't be able to edit the contributions of those html experts without a similar barrier. Apart from that, do you really want to add a "Syntax error" dialgue etc. to a wiki, or instead allow broken html?

  • wms: H'm, maybe it's because I'm a programmer, I find the html tags easier than sensei's-style. Knowing that all tags run <xx> through </xx>, from there you just need to learn a few xx acronyms are you're ready to go. But sensei's isn't so clear to me; for example, does a double-single-quote (italicize) end at the end of a line if it isn't terminated earlier, or would it run into the next paragraph? what if I have (spaces added because I don't know how to quote sense's tags):
' ' ital _ _ ital-bold ' ' what-is-this?

As for error messages, fixing HTML on the fly is quite easy, all browsers do it. :-) Simply, when you see an opening tag you don't understand, ignore; when you see an open or close tag that is illegal without first closing some open tags, add "implied" closing tags as necessary. Done! ... but anyway, my original question, "why did anybody invent a new markup system?", is answered, it is because they felt that this new system was easier than HTML. I'm happy with that answer because I agree, probably wikis are like this because somebody felt that it would make them easier. I may disagree with that original wiki-writer, but at least I know why they are the way they are.

Arno: the case against HTML is that programmers like you and me are in the minority. That's why programs like MS Frontpage, Dreamweaver etc. exist. Anyone can write some text in a wiki without reading the text formatting rules. As for correcting bad HTML - it is not as easy as you have outlined above. I guess you know that :o) Also, e.g. writing a bulleted list (just starting with '*' - 1 char) is 13 times faster than (<ul><li></ul> - 13 chars) The security problem to HTML relates to having to write a pretty good HTML filter that removes all kinds of Javascript etc. which is not easy either. That's what all those cross-scripting security issues are about.

DnF: Note that on the first wiki, which is explicitly for programmers, HTML markup is not allowed either. See [ext] http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhyDoesntWikiDoHtml for reasons why.


Feature, not omission

The lack of HTML in wikis is intentional. In addition to the other arguments here that say "you don't need it" and "it's easier to use for most people", it's even more interesting (I think) to say SenseisLibrary and other wikis would be much worse off for allowing HTML.

Other big Wikis have pages dedicated to SoftSecurity? that describe why wikis work. My favorite example of the thinking that goes behind SoftSecurity?:

How might one make Subway stations and shopping malls not collect vandals, bums, and people who aren't there for transportation or shopping?

  • Send people to police it and rout ne'er-do-wells?
  • Put up intimidating signs?
  • Remove comfortable places to rest?
  • Charge too much for admission?
  • Add razor wire and guard dogs?

All these are terrible solutions. They make the environment unpleasant for everyone, travelers and loiterers.

Instead, the solution that embodies WikiZen? is: [ext] Play classical music.

Loiterers are driven away subtlely (they may not even realize why) and passers-by probably won't even notice the music.

By making the environment slightly unfamiliar (but still pleasing and useful) and by removing the temptation to make outlandish presentation decisions, we must instead gain attention by what we say rather than how we say it.

- ChadMiller


Please consolidate this discussion into Wiki and HTML.


Wiki and HTML last edited by fractic on February 28, 2010 - 22:36
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